Kim Jong Nam murder suspect thought hit was a prank: lawyer
Doan Thi Huong is escorted by police during an earlier court appearance AFP/File / MOHD RASFAN

A Vietnamese woman accused of assassinating the North Korean leader's half-brother with a nerve agent thought she was taking part in a practical joke and only realised he was dead after her arrest, a court heard Tuesday.

Doan Thi Huong is on trial with Indonesian woman Siti Aisyah over the Cold War-style killing of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13 last year.

Defence lawyers have argued that the women were recruited to take part in what they thought were prank TV shows but were instead tricked into becoming inadvertent assassins, in an elaborate plot by a group of North Korean agents.

The women, in their 20s, have denied murdering Kim Jong Un's estranged half-brother by smearing VX nerve agent on his face as he waited for a flight to Macau. They face death by hanging if found guilty.

Huong's lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik told the trial that one of four North Koreans suspected of involvement in the murder had recruited the Vietnamese woman to perform what she thought were pranks.

According to Huong's police statement presented to the High Court in Shah Alam, she travelled to Malaysia not long before the assassination.

In the days before the murder, Huong went to Kuala Lumpur airport twice and met the North Korean, whom she knew as Mr. Y, according to the statement.

The court previously heard his real name was Ri Ji Hyon, and he fled Malaysia shortly after the murder with the other North Korean suspects.

Under his instructions Huong carried out pranks which involved sneaking up behind people and rubbing her hands on their face, the court heard.

On the day of the assassination, Mr Y. gave her an oily substance that she rubbed on the face of a man.

After washing her hands, she took a taxi back to her hotel.

She only found out he was dead on February 16 -- a day after her arrest -- when police told her, according to her statement.

Aisyah, who attacked Kim around the same time as Huong, also claimed she was hired to conduct pranks.

"Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong are scapegoats," lawyer Hisyam told the court, as he questioned the chief investigating police officer, Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz. The trial continues.